What up yo.
Ok let’s do this.
Let’s review Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” baby.
This is not “Goodfellas”, let’s just get that out-of-the-way.
This 3 1/2 hour film is a masterstroke.
Pure Scorsese. Goodfellas was made 30 years ago, shot in 1989 and released in 1990.
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have a shorthand to their collaborations.
Scorsese’s command of filmmaking has reached and exceeded that of any of his contemporaries…he’s has widely been considered the greatest American film maker by many in both the film world and the critics circle.
De Niro himself has proven time and again he stands among the greatest actors of any generation. His skill set is beyond remarkable, he is legend now.
And dare I say that both filmmaker and actor sharpened their skill sets working together.
Film after film, decade after decade, they have created at least 3 of the most iconic films of all time:
- Taxi Driver, 1976
- Raging Bull, 1980
- Goodfellas, 1990
They began their filmmaking partnership beginning with:
Mean Streets, 1973
Taxi Driver, 1976
Taxi Driver won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year.
New York, New York, 1977
Then they dropped an atomic bomb on Hollywood in 1980 with
Raging Bull, 1980
Raging Bull teamed Joe Pesci with De Niro for the first time, and De Niro took home his second Academy Award for this performance.
His first was for playing the young Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II. De Niro was not there the night of his first win, instead Coppola accepted the award for him and made a prophecy about the actors future.
Scorsese and De Niro teamed up again for the hysterical
The King Of Comedy, 1982
And then we waited.
Scorsese would go on to make
- After Hours, 1985
- The Color Of Money, 1986,
- The Last Temptation Of Christ, 1988 (my personal favorite).
De Niro would go on to make:
- Once Upon A Time In America, 1984,
- The Mission, 1986,
- The Untouchables, 1987
- Angel Heart, 1987
- Midnight Run, 1988
And turn in a phenomenal performance in
- Awakenings, 1989
This brings us to 1990.
After an 8 year break from each other, the world of cinema was about to be rocked forever.
They set fire set to Hollywood with:
Goodfellas featured De Niro with Joe Pesci.
Pesci earned an Academy Award for his performance as Tommy De Vito.
De Niro became Max Cady, starring in Scorsese’s remake of :
Cape Fear, 1991
And then Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro and an incredible Sharon Stone starred in:
That was the last time De Niro and Scorsese worked together.
24 years later, in 2019, we have the reunion of Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci. This also includes Harvey Keitel who is another Scorsese regular and working with Scorsese for the first time, Al Pacino.
That’s why this is so damn special. It’s a film most of us Scorsese / De Niro fanatics have been waiting 24 years for. It’s a film we feared may never come.
The Irishman, 2019
A tale of hit man Frank Sheeran (De Niro), his introduction and career into a life of killing and blood.
He meets and befriends mob boss Russell Bufalino (Pesci) who takes him under his wing and puts him to work…eventually asking him protect massive mob asset, Teamster leader Jimmy Hofta (Pacino).
A lifelong friendship ensues between the teamster leader and the hitman.
Frank is a hitman. It comes naturally to him. He’s muscle, loyal muscle.
Here we watch Al Pacino playing Jimmy Hoffa and he has a ball.
More importantly we see a De Niro & Pacino team up on screen playing best friends in a film directed by the master.
Both actors are at tho top of their game when they are on screen together. They shine. Bright.
And the return of Pesci onscreen, he’s flawless.
Both Pacino and Pesci give flawless performances.
Delicious to watch.
The screenplay was written by Steven Zaillian and it’s tremendous. It is based on the book “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brand.
”I heard you paint houses” is code for “I heard you kill people”
When speaking with Hoffa for the first time, Hoffa asks him this.
Frank responds “Yes I do, I also do my own carpentry.”
Meaning he cleans up the mess.
The film flows like only a Scorsese movie can. You’re in it’s grips from beginning to end,
Let me write this:
Pacino is the heart of the film.
I loved him the further down the rabbit hole we went.
Pesci played his role with an understated stoic stance that was beautiful.
De Niro is De Niro.
Which is great, but not stand out like his co-stars.
He played her part perfectly, and his character is a cold hearted killer…void of emotion that he lets you see. In that sense, De Niro embodies him to a tee here.
When we do see the cracks of a soul, it’s all in the eyes, and it’s piercing. The older the character gets, the more we see him cracking open, but you have to watch very closely to see just how tortured this man is.
The impact of this film stayed with me for days.
Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have been digitally de-aged for this film via CGI as the film takes place over 4 decades.
Martin Scorsese worked meticulously for over a year to edit this film, paying close attention to the digital de-aging process, making sure it looked perfect.
Well, it looks incredible.
However, it also highlights that while you can digitally put a mask on a 70 year old actor and make him look 40, you can’t change his posture.
Specifically De Niro, he now physically carries himself like a 70 year old actor…
Because he is in his 70’s.
And CGI, once again, is not the magic wand directors think it is.
It in fact makes us focus on the physicality more so, which becomes distracting.
I didn’t notice this with Pacino and Pesci, it was specifically De Niro. Pesci doesn’t need to move too much because he plays against type in this film.
He is the power, the boss. And like Paul Sorvino in #Goodfellas,
“Paulie may have moved slow, but that’s because Paulie didn’t have to move for anybody.”
And Pacino is such a wild maniac still, he makes every scene work.
I loved every frame of him.
But hey, I just saw the film and I’m going through that “first watch” thing:
Overcoming the expectations and accepting the reality so…I digress.
All in all, this is a dramatic, epic, revelatory and ambitious film. Jam packed with historical information and nuances so important and sumptuous, it would take me another three viewings to review it properly.
The importance of this film;
I believe The Irishman signals the new frontier in film.
The trade off being that directors will now have the option of getting their entire visions seen by audiences, but possibly sacrificing having their visions displayed on the silver screen.
Yet, it does grant them full control.
The Irishman was given a three week release in theaters before Netflix premiered it.
The original financier for the film pulled out his $100,000,000 investment in the project at the last second.
The film nearly died, then Netflix stepped up and offered Martin Scorsese $100 million to complete his project, his way.
The film could be as long as he wanted, with no interference from the studio.
But the trade-off was that it would only get a three week theatrical run.
This window would allow it to be considered for the academy awards (A film needs to run theatrically in Los Angeles for a few weeks to get Oscar consideration) but a few popular theater chains (AMC, whatever else is our there) refused to run the film unless theaters had the film exclusively for 3 months.
Over the last month it played sparsely around country, 10-20 theaters, and premiered on Netflix Thanksgiving Day.
So when you watch the film, you are watching the full-on director’s cut.
Unlike so many of Scorsese’s films in the past, this time nobody stepped in and made him cut one frame or edit two hours from his film.
We are seeing his complete vision.
The golden age of television is over.
Now that Apple and Disney have descended upon it.
Perhaps filmmaker’s will embrace streaming as a way to get their visions to the audience.
If so…this is the beginning of a new age.
And Scorsese made it happen. Netflix made it happen.
Don’t underestimate how important this film is.
5 fists up.